disappearing inK: surprises
Disappearing Ink returns after six years with Surprises. Lawrence Lanahan's "melodic and lyrical innovation" incorporates a wider range of sounds this time: Janschian fingerpicking, self-sampled psychedelia, Zombies-esque electric piano, and the clean guitar-driven punch of late 70s Richard Thompson. The lyrics, mordant with flashes of hope, reflect a father and husband grappling with the unpredictability of middle age and 21st century America.
(L to R) Kevin Corbin, Lawrence Lanahan, Odell Norman, Mark Brock-Cancellieri
Photo: Lawrence Lanahan
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On Surprises, songwriter and author Lawrence Lanahan opens his Disappearing Ink project up to new sounds and confronts the unpredictability of middle age and 21st century America.
Surprises, out September 28, 2020, is the second release from Lanahan's Disappearing Ink project. In 2014, Lanahan recorded Disappearing Ink's debut There Is No Time and Nothing's Been with former Jennifers bassist Joe Tropea and experimental music stalwart Bob Wagner on drums. Then Disappearing Ink...disappeared. Lanahan's second child was born just after a December 2014 release performance at Baltimore's Windup Space, and the lineup never performed again. Lanahan focused on family responsibilities and set to work on a nonfiction book about segregation and racism in the Baltimore region, leaving music behind for several years.
When Lanahan began writing music again, free moments were scarcer than ever, and he recorded at home mostly by himself, inspired partly by Todd Rungdren's Something/Anything? On Surprises, Lanahan embraced the concept of "disappearing ink," letting the cohesive jazz-meets-college-rock sound of the previous album evaporate and indulging any musical impulse that came to him during arranging and recording. The “melodic and lyrical innovation” critics detected in his first album 16 years ago remains, but the sounds are variegated: punchy guitar rock echoing Richard and Linda Thompson; feedback-centric sound collage; dreamy Lanois-inspired grooves; opaque Robyn-Hitchcockian mind trips; R&B; and British folk revival fingerpicking. The album closes on an aggressive cover of "You Can Have It All," a George McCrae disco romp famously reinterpreted by Yo La Tengo. Lanahan lifts the previous album's guitar-solo moratorium, pushing a new Telecaster through some urgent personal expression.
Lyrically, Surprises laments the unpredictability of approaching middle age with mordant observations. The first lines of the album showcase the stakes: "I used to sing sweet melodies/I never had to wait too long/To find the next note/Sometimes the note came to me/Now I can try all through the night/And all I get are aches and fears/They ring in my ears/And settle inside of me." Occasional flashes of hope, like the curiosity in the sound of a child's voice, spark an instinct to persevere.
In 2019, Lanahan published The Lines Between Us: Two Families and a Quest to Cross Baltimore's Racial Divide and began performing in Baltimore with a new lineup for Disappearing Ink: Mark Brock-Cancellieri on electric piano (who plays on a few Surprises tracks), Odell Norman on drums, and Kevin Corbin on bass. The band planned on playing a release show in 2020; then COVID-19 arrived. Lanahan began a series of live-streamed performances in March 2020, choosing covers and songs from his own catalog along themes like "Old Songs, New Resonances" and "Assholes, Losers, and Sad Bastards." One performance consisted entirely of covers of Baltimore songwriters.
Lawrence Lanahan lives in northeast Baltimore with his wife Andrea Appleton and their two children. Lanahan produced, arranged, and performed on Joseph Bernstein's recent debut, 1941. Critics praised Lanahan's first album, a self-titled 2004 EP, for “intricately picked guitar work and melodious, thoughtful songs” and “wit, emotion, [and] bizarre narration.” Disappearing Ink's There Is No Time and Nothing's Been (2014) drew on Lanahan's composition studies with Judah Adashi and jazz studies with Carl Filipiak, loading jazz harmonies, guitar feedback, and horn and string arrangements into a driving rhythm section for tight tunes and occasional departures into out-jazz improvisation.
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Hear the album Lawrence Lanahan wrote and recorded mostly alone in his home studio--à la Todd Rungdren's Something/Anything?--over the course of three years:
From 2014, There Is No Time and Nothing's Been:
From 2004, Lawrence Lanahan's self-titled EP: